Warning over rooftop solar for complexes and estates in South Africa

 ·21 Mar 2023

Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana’s announcement regarding the launch of the National Treasury’s rebate scheme for new rooftop solar installations on private homes from 1 March 2023, has pushed demand for renewable energy solutions by homeowners – particularly solar panel installations.

According to Hermanus van der Linde, chief executive of short-term insurance broker Integrisure, the sudden rise of solar has led to some confusion among body corporates and homeowners associations (HOAs) in estates and complexes about the responsibilities of insuring the installations.

Van der Linde said that some body corporates and HOAs are not aware or have not been advised that they can cover solar panels under their existing building insurance policies, with minimal implications.

Others are not keen to take on the insurance themselves, leaving it the responsibility of individual owners to get insured.

For body corporates and HOAs, some of the options in the market are to insure a typical rooftop solar system or fixed generator by increasing the building sum insured with the replacement value of the system, which can be added to the Participation Quota (PQ).

“The system will be covered in full for typical building risks such as fire, hail, impact and accidental damage,” van der Linde said.

Other cover options include increasing the power-surge and/or exterior theft first-loss limit to ensure that they are covered for all losses up to the chosen amount on a first-loss basis.

Another option that has been seen in the market is to add the solar system as a specified item with an additional premium payable, which includes full building cover without limitations on theft and power surge.

“In this instance, the system should be specified at full replacement value,” he said.

Those who live in residential estates or complexes need to obtain approval from body corporates or homeowners’ associations when looking to install solar.

“As this is a new subject matter to deal with, combined with the current reality of unprecedented load shedding, it is very important to add this insurance matter to the agenda at upcoming AGMs for members to understand the cover they will enjoy for solar panels, what it excludes and if there are any limitations.”

Van der Linde said that insurers are already seeing reluctance from body corporates and HOAs to add solar panels to their building insurance;, however, he said that owners should insist that it be done.

If there is still resistance, residents and owners living in estates or complexes will need to take out cover for their solar panels on their personal policies.

“We have seen various cover options in the market ranging from adding these solar panels to contents cover to specifying it as an all-risk item.”

Van der Linde cautions consumers as well as body corporates and HOAs to ensure that solar systems are installed by a qualified, accredited installer who is able to issue a certificate of compliance as insurance companies and manufacturers may reject claims if the system is not installed by an accredited installer.

“Reputable installers should have liability cover, product liability and cover against defective workmanship. When contacting solar installers, ask to see their proof of liability cover.”

“We will continue to keep a close eye on the market for further trends and developments on this front and remain committed to providing comprehensive advice on the best insurance solutions for solar panels.”

“If you plan on investing in renewable energy installations, ensure that you are adequately insured by talking to your broker for the best product options for peace of mind should something go wrong,” he said.

Read: New rooftop solar tax breaks come with a huge catch

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